Interview by Marie-Pauline Cesari @itsjustmp

Mr Eazi is a multi-talented, Grammy and Latin Grammy-winning artist whose musical prowess has made him one of the most streamed African artists in the world. With hits like “Skin Tight”, “Leg Over” and “Pour Me Water”, he has enjoyed a phenomenal rise on the Afrobeats scene. Beyond music, Mr Eazi is a visionary entrepreneur and philanthropist, founder of emPawa Africa, a platform that is transforming the careers of African artists.
We chatted about his debut album, ‘The Evil Genius’, is a highly anticipated masterpiece, blending a spectrum of African sounds alongside visual artwork – promising to redefine the musical landscape once again.

Your new album, “The Evil Genius”, is a real tribute to African culture. Can you tell us about the importance of celebrating and preserving this culture in your music?

Preserving African culture in my music ensures that our traditions and stories are not forgotten. By incorporating traditional African instruments, rhythms, and languages into my songs, I keep our cultural heritage alive in the modern music landscape.
In essence, celebrating and preserving African culture in my music honors my heritage, uplifts my people, and contributes to the global tapestry of music. It reminds us of the beauty and power within African traditions and inspires artists and listeners alike.

How does this album differ from your previous work?

“The Evil Genius” album represents my liberation from constantly seeking a flawless image in the eyes of others. It signifies my emancipation from the need for validation. This album differs from my previous work because I have grown in all aspects, and it is my most personal work to date. It encapsulates my emotions, reactions, and experiences over the past three to four years.

One of the most innovative aspects of this album is the integration of artwork. You have collaborated with visual artists from eight different African countries to create unique artworks for each track on the album. Can you tell us how this fusion of music and art was born and what it means to you?

During my stay at a hotel in Cotonou, Benin, I stumbled upon the mesmerizing artwork of Patricorel. His captivating pieces conveyed a unique and thought-provoking interpretation of love that I had never encountered before. The way he expressed emotions through his art struck a chord deep within me.
It was at that moment of discovery that a realization dawned on me. I realized that we had the incredible opportunity to bring together the worlds of music and visual art. Inspired by Patricorel’s work, I envisioned a project where we could narrate the story of each song through captivating artworks.

photography DANIEL OBASI
photography DANIEL OBASI

Ahead of the album’s release on October 27, you will invite the public to experience the music alongside the art at several multi-sensory exhibition listening experiences, first in Ghana then in London. How do these exhibitions reinforce the album & message?

Presenting the album as a visual compilation was the perfect idea. It allowed me to view my music as both an art form and a blank canvas for self-expression through singing. The instrumentals serve as the canvas, and as I sing, I create something meaningful. The freedom I experience during the creation process is akin to that of visual artists. Adding melodies to a song is like applying brushstrokes, bringing something from my subconscious to life.
The exhibitions provide an opportunity to show fans not only the physical side of the music, but also to convey the message that “you’re just like me.” We are ordinary people who can engage with art. It is inclusive and a part of who we are.

By incorporating elements of afrobeats, afropop, gospel, hiplife and highlife into your new album, you create a unique pan-African musical blend. How did you develop this distinctive style, and what message do you want to convey with this musical diversity?

This album not only celebrates the rich diversity of African musical traditions but also showcases the innovative and boundary-pushing contemporary art creations by African artists.
“The Evil Genius” aims to inspire and encourage the exploration and appreciation of African music. It is my hope that this album will foster collaborations and cross-cultural exchanges, ultimately elevating not only our music but also African artists on the global stage.

You recorded this album in different cities around the world. How did these different locations influence the creation of the album?

Each place possesses its own distinct atmosphere and spirit, which greatly influenced my music-making process. My main objective was to create music that genuinely conveyed my thoughts and emotions during that particular period.

photography DANIEL OBASI

The intro to the album, ‘Olúwa Jọ̀’ begins with the voice of your mother. Can you share the emotional significance of this song and how it reflects your personal story?

Such a personal memory for me. It was a challenging period when my mom had surgery and woke up to send me a prayer. That’s just who she is – she will pray for you at any opportunity. I am a product of her grace.

Do you see music as a kind of therapy, a cathartic medium in a sense?

Yes, music is a form of therapy and is used in some medical practices. Personally, I believe that music provides a sense of freedom without judgment. When I go to the studio, I can simply sing about love or someone I loved but couldn’t have. That is therapy for me.

You recorded “Advice” during a difficult moment in your career, when you were feeling the pressure and seeing long-standing relationships crack under the weight of your success. ‘When you first come up [as an artist], everybody is in love with you,’ you said ‘Then they want to draw you down.’ What would be the main message of this song?

The main message is that I am no longer someone to be messed with. If you continue to provoke me, you will face the consequences.

You founded emPawa Africa to support African talent. Can you tell us about the importance of this programme for the future of music in Africa?

As the founder of emPawa Africa, I believe our program is crucial for supporting and empowering African music talent, equipping them with the necessary tools for success. African artists often face challenges such as limited funding and guidance, and emPawa seeks to bridge this gap by providing mentorship, professional videos, marketing support, and funding.
Our ultimate goal is to change the global perception of African music and showcase its immense talent and serve as a catalyst for the growth of music in Africa, shaping careers and contributing to the continent’s prosperity.